A Dream Come True

An area veteran of World War II will receive a special salute – signifying a dream come true – at a concert on Veterans Day, as the Wheeling Symphony pays tribute to all who served.

Bernard “Bernie” Brosky, a 93-year-old veteran from Mount Olivet, will be introduced at the orchestra’s Masterworks concert at the Capitol Theatre Friday, Nov. 11, and will be designated as an honorary conductor. Brosky, who now resides at Bishop Joseph H. Hodges Continuous Care Center in Wheeling, will have the opportunity to conduct the orchestra in rehearsal prior to a March performance.

In preparation for Brosky’s “debut,” Maestro Andre Raphel, WSO music director and conductor, visited Brosky at the center and gave him a “conducting lesson” last week. Raphel also presented the vet with a conductor’s baton to keep in his room and practice his conducting movements. “You can think about the music and practice and use this very special baton to conduct the orchestra,” the maestro told the honoree.

The opportunity came as a complete surprise to Brosky, who had told center staff of his lifetime desire to lead an orchestra. “I’m tickled pink to have this bestowed on me,” he said. “I think it’s wonderful. I never expected anything like this.”

The senior’s wish came true after center officials contacted Laurie Labishak, director of membership for Second Wind Dreams, an international nonprofit organization that, among its programs, helps to fulfill elders’ dreams. She worked with Wheeling Symphony representatives to make arrangements for granting Brosky’s wish.

“It’s nice to be able to make something like that happen to someone who has given so much to our country,” Raphel commented after meeting the veteran. “It reinforces that music is about sharing and caring.”

Brosky, a self-taught conductor, told Labishak, “I like to conduct the band when I’m listening to music.” He also revealed that, if given the choice between listening to jazz bands or orchestras, “I’ll take the symphony.”

Upon meeting Brosky, Raphel invited him to attend the “very special concert” on Nov. 11, featuring an all-American program. “Gee, that’s swell,” Brosky said upon learning of the invitation to conduct the orchestra in rehearsal.

“We’ll find some nice American music like Sousa’s ‘Stars and Stripes Forever,'” Raphel said regarding the March gig. “That’s wonderful,” the honorary conductor responded.

Asked what he knew of conducting, Brosky replied confidently, “You face the orchestra.”

After Brosky showed a natural ability to hold the baton amd raise his right arm, Raphel joked, “Have you conducted before?”

“Just at home,” Brosky quipped.

The music director remarked, “It’s a little different in front of the orchestra.” The veteran nodded and observed knowingly, “You have pressure.”

Brosky also demonstrated an understanding of starting with an upbeat, then bringing the baton down, at which point the musicians start playing. Raphel then helped him practice the “one-two, one-two, one-two” beat of conducting. “That’s right; that’s right. Then it all happens. All the music comes out,” Raphel said enthusiastically.

“Yes, yes. Bravo, bravo, bravo, that’s it. That’s excellent. You won’t need to study much,” Raphel told Brosky. “If I saw you there like that, I think I would be inclined to play.”

Raphel commented, “It’s wonderful to be able to provide this kind of opportunity to someone who has given so much to this country.

“Bernie has such a wonderful spirit and such an innate understanding of what music is about,” the conductor observed. “I think it will carry him well.”

Family members will accompany Brosky to the concert. Melanie Torok, a Hodges staff member, told him, “It’s going to be an evening of surprises.”

Reflecting on his lifetime dream, Brosky said, “This is something special and it really came true.”

Brosky served in the Army for four years, with two years of duty in the European theater of operations during World War II and two years of duty stateside. He recalled that his unit landed in Ireland and went to Glasgow, Scotland, before heading to the battlefields of North Africa. “We took Algiers, then went up through Naples (Italy) to small cities and towns,” he said. “I stayed over there two years.”

After his wartime service, he worked at Wheeling Corrugating Co. for 16 years. Tired of layoffs by the steelmaker, he accepted a job at Ormet Corp. and worked there for 23 years until retirement.

“I like music. I always liked music,” Brosky commented. “When I was a teenager, I always begged my mother to get a saxophone. She said, ‘We’ll see.’ …. It never developed anything besides ‘We’ll see.'”

But instead of a saxophone, it’s a baton that’s leading him into the world of music making, all these many years later.